Adult Jazz “Spook”

Band: Adult Jazz

Album: Gist Is

Song: Spook

Adult Jazz is a quartet of four British musicians who play experimental pop music. Their album Gist Is has become one of my favorites over the last year. Paste Magazine’s Nina Corcoran (in August, 2014) described this album best, so I’ll just paste (awful pun) her words here:

If every substitute teacher acted as Harry Burgess, the world would be much more willing to redefine pop. Fresh out of university, the Adult Jazz frontman seems to have made himself a pupil alongside his students, approaching music with the perplexed curiosity and playful spirit of someone who hasn’t been shaped by the confines of Western definitions. As a result, his band’s debut album, Gist Is, sees monstrous talent wandering with its eyes closed, trusting in itself to discover the unseen by whatever means necessary.

Self-recorded and produced over the course of their four-year education at university in Leeds,Gist Is is the product of four friends who hope to revive the unified aesthetic its musical parents penned in the early- to mid-2000s, namely Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House, Joanna Newsom’s Ysand Björk’s Vespertine. The back-to-back setup of long-form orchestral, pitch-shifting songs doesn’t make the record prone for Billboard pop charts. Its intuitive flow and dream-like wavering, however, make it easy to absorb.

Things kick off with the slow eight-minute opener “Hum,” sounding not too far off from the now-classic woodsy ringing and wistful horns of Justin Vernon. It immediately warns listeners; if you’re looking for simple pop, this isn’t it. You have to be patient if you want to see the bigger route that is Gist Is. “Spook” asks listeners to do the same. Its dark start blooms into a flutter of free association and throat grooves, pulling in group chants and free-form singing that’s as easy to learn as those in Akron/Family’s jovial “Ed Is A Portal.”

Much of the album seems to flirt with the Dirty Projectors’ unsettling structure. “Be A Girl” has the baroque twists of The Glad Fact, and the finger-picked guitar and rhythmic drumming on closer “Bonedigger” sounds like a forgotten half of “Temecula Sunrise.” By far the most Dirty Projectors-esque track is “Donne Tongue,” flaunting freak-folk jazzed guitar and off-key plodding that comes full circle with a passionate flailing, easily making it the album’s best track.

Burgess claims the sound as their own by threading it all together with his distinct vocals. Unhinged melodies fit comfortably beside traditional scat, especially during the atonal downwards spiral of his voice in “Idiot Mantra.” Indulgence in expression, as Burgess coined it in our recent interview, is never too rich to consume.

This year has once again seen pop stars clawing for the top, but Adult Jazz is meditatively inching its way up the ranks with its own version of the genre. Considering the four men are rather young, their adolescence does leave a part of the album feeling unfinished, but it also leaves the impressive marks of someone who has exceeded the limits of his age. Seeing a band carry on the complexities of long-form songs, especially when giving their entire selves up to the process while they’re at it, is the boldest a debut can be. If they change dramatically on a future release, we won’t even be upset. That unpredictability is what makes Adult Jazz’s music so enlightening.

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Danny Ainge Q&A with Chris Forsberg, and a pinch of my own commentary

ESPN’s Chris Forsberg just posted a Q&A with Celtics GM Danny Ainge on Here are some highlights, with more rhetorical Qs from me.

CF: The Celtics owned the NBA’s top-ranked defensive rating after Friday’s win. Why has the defense been so successful this season?

DA: I just think that we’re playing hard. Our guys are giving a lot of effort. I think our depth has been a help in that regard, too.

Me: Marcus Smart’s knee injury will wreck that perimeter depth and will bring rookie minutes for R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier. In terms of the first 13 games, they’ve yet to face great offenses, who are at full-health (OKC no Durant, win vs Atlanta came with Teague out 2nd half). Not surprisingly, their losses have all come to average-and above offensive teams.

CF: Your fan base spends a lot of time obsessing about the first-round picks that other teams might deliver this June. Do you find yourself checking scores on the Mavericks (top-7 protected), Timberwolves (top-12 protected) or Nets (unprotected) any more often than usual this season?

DA: I do not. No. I mean, listen, it’s 82 games. It’s a huge schedule. Maybe on April 10 or April 1 even. Maybe those things will come into play more, but it’s way too early to tell. Really good teams are struggling. I think that small sample size doesn’t really mean a whole lot right now. So, no, I don’t allow myself to get too caught up in that stuff right now. It’s too early.

Me: What do you want, Forsberg! It’s too easy to get ahead of ourselves. I will avoid all Ben Simmons reading until February. Still, it’s impossible not to dream of that Nets pick…

CF: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in head coach Brad Stevens during his two-plus seasons here?

DA: Well, Brad is a great coach. It’s really the same things: He’s really smart, he’s really hard-working. I think this is a really challenging — a different type of challenge for him than he’s had before. Last year we had a lot of changes, doing a lot of things mid-stream. This may be, I think by far, his toughest challenge, just because there are so many players and so many guys that are equal quality. He’s gotta try to figure out who best fits with one another during the season.

Me: What Danny won’t tell you is that Brad has five special 12-sided dice. He rolls the dice 48 times every Monday. That’s how he decides how many minutes each player gets to play in that week’s games. It’s the only way to deal with this roster.

CF: The refs have actually made the typically unflappable Stevens drop to his knees in disbelief a couple times the past two games, but he still only has one career technical from back in his rookie season (an ejection in Sacramento). What’s the angriest you’ve ever seen Brad?

DA: Well, first of all, I know that Brad has the fire burning inside of him. And so I don’t ever worry about that. But, hey, there’s been some situations that have caused me to drop to my knees wherever I am at.

Me: Stevens actually has a bad left knee. Every once in a while, he gets really fired up, and his knee gives out, causing him to drop to his knees. Once he’s dropped to his knees, he pretends he’s pissed off at the refs. 

When you’re on the road scouting college games [Ainge was calling Monday from New York, where he was preparing to scout LSU’s Ben Simmons], how do you tend to watch your team? Do you hole up in your hotel room and watch League Pass on your iPad or do you venture out?

Ainge: Sometimes I’ll go out and watch it at a sports bar or a place like that, just watching it somewhere on my iPad.

Me: Actually, Ainge reads when he’s on the road. Mostly sci-fi. Some fantasy. A bit of historical fiction. He watches the games when he gets back to Boston, at his home theater. 

CF: [An aside here: One day this writer bumped into Ainge at a fast-food joint near the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. As he made his way through the cafeteria-style line where they were building his burrito bowl, a not-bashful store employee kept telling Ainge that he should trade Rondo to the Sacramento Kings — and Isaiah Thomas was one of the names the employee mentioned getting in return. The people in Boston’s front office often stress that Ainge takes all advice into consideration, and maybe even those outside the organization, too.]

Me: I love this, though I’d have to imagine the front office staff had been looking for a scoring, penetrating point guard before Ainge went to eat that Mexican food.


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Dreaming about November, 2016: Imagining Ben Simmons as the Celtics Future Power Forward

Chad Ford, ESPN’s resident college scouting guru, recently posted about LSU’s Ben Simmons, after Simmons’ 21 point, 20 rebound, 7 assist gem against Marquette. Scouts have been drooling about the 6’10” Australian for the last year. In early projections, Simmons is looking like the top pick in the 2016 draft. Celtics fans will be watching the draft lottery with anticipation thanks to that Nets pick. Though Simmons isn’t the only player to drool over, and certainly doesn’t have the best shooting skills as of today, he is being described in ways that remind some of Magic Johnson– a power forward with the vision of a point guard–and the athleticism of recent top pick Andrew Wiggins. Let the myth-making begin:

Simmons had his first big game of the year at the Barclays Center on Monday versus Marquette. Fifty-one NBA scouts and execs attended and Simmons delivered, scoring 21 points, grabbing 20 rebounds and dishing out seven assists in a loss to Marquette. He made several spectacular plays in the game — finishing above the rim in transition, taking his man off the dribble in the half court and making a number of creative passes to his teammates for easy scores.

“You don’t find players his size, with his elite athletic ability that see the game the way he sees the game,” one GM said. “He’s unselfish to a fault. He’s always trying to make the right play. And he’s just scratching the surface. Look at how the other freshmen are faring right now. It takes a while to adjust. What does his box score start looking like when he adjusts?”

In July, Ricky O’Donnell, writing for SB Nation, gave this commentary, describing the best way to build around Simmons:

The ideal way to build around Simmons is to have two 3-and-D wings, a shooter and secondary creator at point guard and a rim protector at center. If that happens, you can run everything through Simmons out of the four spot and let him pick defenses apart with his vision and passing.

Two 3-and-D wings:

  • Avery Bradley turns 25 in a week. Bradley is currently shooting 43% from deep so far. With Smart injured for what could be 4-6 weeks, Bradley will be taking on a much heavier load on defense. It will be interesting to see if Bradley can maintain his shooting touch.
  • Marcus Smart turns 22 in March. The knee injury comes on the heels (pun!) of the lingering toe injury. Smart’s incredible defensive instincts and tenacity make him both a lock-down defender and makes me worry about his 82-game season longevity. Smart’s corner three-point shooting will be important to watch.
  • R.J. Hunter is 22. With Smart out, Hunter will see more minutes. Stay tuned.

Shooter/secondary creator at PG:

  • Isaiah Thomas turns 27 in February. Thomas fits that description perfectly.

Rim-protector at C:

  • Amir Johnson will turn 29 in May. The Celtics have a team-option for 2016-17.
  • Jordan Mickey is only 21, and doesn’t have the offensive tools to become a starter, but could turn into a nice back-up small-ball center.

If the Nets pick somehow ends up becoming #1 (15.6% chance if we fast-forwarded the season today), the Celtics would undoubtedly have themselves a modern power forward who could become a top NBA player.

Then they’d just need to sign another rim-protector with all that cap space. 2016 free-agent centers:

Roy Hibbert (too old and limited?)

Ian Mahinmi

Jordan Hill

Festus Ezeli (restricted, Warriors won’t give him up if they can help it),

Tarik Black


By the way, Danny Ainge and Mike Zarren were among those 51 NBA executives watching Ben Simmons the other night…


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